Friday, June 29, 2007

Before & After

Remember these experimental pants? Well, I'm still experimenting with them. The primary reason I refused to wear them was the awkward length. They reminded me too much of the high waters I wouldn't be caught dead wearing when I was a child. I was able to shorten them to a length I feel comfortable wearing. The day after I put these pants in the Black Hole Closet of No Return in the Sewing Room, I wore a pair of RTW capris that had a flat fell seam around the circumference of the leg above the knee. I said to myself, "Hey, I could do that!"

Here's what I did:

I measured up from the hem and marked two lines on the pant legs two inches apart.

I sewed the lines together to form a tuck on the right side.

I cut the tuck along the fold to make a conventional seam allowance and trimmed one of the seam allowances to about 1/4 inch.

3. Then I folded and pressed to make a flat fell seam. I know, I know - it's not the neatest, best looking flat fell seam, but a flat fell seam, nonetheless.

Voila! New Capris!

I've moved them from the Black Hole Closet of No Return in the Sewing Room to my bedroom closet and I even found a t-shirt to wear with them! The t-shirt virtually covers my beautiful welt pocket so the pants don't look quite so bipolar.

I have messed with these pants so much! The only thing left to do is add rick-rack and eyelet lace. (I'm kidding!) I wouldn't feel conspicuous wearing these to run errands in the neighborhood. (Well, maybe not in my neighborhood. Someone I know may see me!) I read somewhere that if a mistake is not visible at 3 feet it's nothing to worry about. I certainly hope that's true!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Next: BWOF 05/2006 132B blouse &134 pants

My next project is this outfit from BWOF 05/2006. I'm using navy linen purchased from I ordered some white Juliette Knit from Nancy's Notions to use for a t-shirt. Or maybe I'll stick with the linen theme and order some white linen for a tank top. I could even go to JoAnn for something as simple as white linen. I'm considering embellishing the shirt with some navy blue fabric paint and stamps or stencils. I have Creative Surface Design for inspiration and it has lots of ideas and tips for stamping and stenciling . I've stamped and stenciled on wovens, but not on knits. I guess I'm feeling experimental these days. I'm afraid I won't stop until I ruin something!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Burda 8101: Name These Pants.

Quilt makers produce beautiful works of art and give their creations evocative names like Winter Window or Grandma’s Wistful Smile. Summerset Banks made a beautiful, prize winning ensemble she called American Beauty. Maybe I should start naming my creations. I’m going to start with these pants.

They started out as Old Maid Project for reasons given in a previous post. But as I worked on them, spending hours perfecting the welt pocket, I thought, "I should call these The Welt Pants". The right half of the pants have the welt pocket and are styled like chinos. The left half has a large patch pocket on the leg like cargo pants. So I thought about calling them Chin-gos or Car-nos. The pants have two vastly different personalities, and the design has no basis in fashion reality, so I thought
Elaray Off Her Meds might be appropriate. The pants have no focus and no direction -- how about just calling them Ball of Confusion? Whatever I decide to call them, they were fun to sew! (Hey -- how about Fun 2 Sew!) Knowing that they wouldn't be seen in public was liberating. I had the freedom to experiment. And who knows, I might just wear them in public.

And if irrational design changes weren't enough, I did further experimentation on these pants by I doing a new pattern adjustment. I used Sandra Betzina's adjustment for a full belly. The blue line represents that adjustment. The red line represents the adjustment I made because I wanted to raise the waistline. I know low rise pants are fashionable these days, but I refuse to wear them (I don't care what the women on What Not To Wear say). I like the way these pants fit around the midsection.

N.B. This post is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, but seriously folks, Summerset's American Beauty outfit is truly amazing!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Me v. Welt Pockets

After seeing the beautifully sewn welt pockets on Erica's Simplicity 4135 white linen pants (see her June 11 post), I decided to try welt pockets on my "Old Maid Capris". Coincidentally, Nancy W. and Debbie Cook were also working on welt pockets. These women inspired me in my battle to conquer my fear of welt pockets. I have several books that cover welt pockets. I made samples using Peggy Bendel's Sewing for Style from the Singer Sewing Library series, Sew Any Set-In Pocket by Claire Shaeffer, and Palmer & Alto's Pants for Real People.

Bendel's Patch Method
This sample was not good, but I don't blame Peggy Bendel. I had the wrong attitude when working on this sample. This was only the second or third time I've attempted welt pockets in my life. I kept wishing the process didn't take so long. This pocket is just sloppy! The corners had folds that I could not press out. The welts are not the same size. What a mess!

Shaeffer's Strip Method
Shaeffer's book details several different methods for welt pockets - I tried the "strip method" and had much better results. Rather than a single patch, welts are formed with two thin strips of fabric. By this time, I realized there are no shortcuts when making welt pockets. Every one of my books gave at least 12 steps in the welt pocket process and it's best to follow every single one of them. I set my machine speed for slow so that I could control where the stitches were going. The resulting welts were much neater.

Next, I wanted to make a sample using the actual fabric .

Palmer & Alto's Patch Method
Pants for Real People is much more than a book on pants fitting. It contains directions for welt pockets and several other design details. Basically, this method is identical to the Bendel method. I took more care and the results were better. I also included a button loop and, since the pants had darts in the back, I included a dart in my sample. By this time, my attitude had changed and the resulting welt pocket is one I am proud of.

  1. Welt pockets require careful marking and sewing. I even used hand basting to mark placement lines in the Shaeffer Strip Method.
  2. Slow is the way to go. I set my machine speed for 'slow' so I could sew carefully and stop precisely.
  3. It's best to follow the directions (all 12 to 15 of them!) to the letter. Maybe a more experienced seamstress knows and uses secret welt pocket shortcuts, but I'm not there yet.
I learned a lot during this little Welt Pocket Clinic and I'm ready to make the pockets on the real pants, now. Well, maybe I'll practice one more pocket.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Is Size Only a Number?

Ninety-five percent of the patterns I sew are Burda - either the envelope patterns or the WOF magazine patterns. I’ve convinced myself I get a better fit with Burda than with other pattern companies because I can make a garment with minimal, if any pattern adjustments. As I was skimming through “Fit for Real People” (Palmer & Alto, 2005) and I noticed Chapter 26: Pattern Company Basic Bodice Comparison. Palmer & Alto say, “We have heard may sewing authorities talk about how one company fits better than all of the others.” That is the way I feel about Burda, but Palmer & Alto disagree. They say, "The only way this could be is if all bodies were the same. Only then could you analyze patterns to find the best fitting brand." (p 249) Palmer & Alto compared the basic bodice patterns of Vogue, Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity and Burda. They used Vogue as the control and compared all other brands to it by placing the bodice pieces on top of each other and comparing the differences. For all intents and purposes, the bodice pieces were the same. Burda patterns differed from Vogue on more points than the others. The differences, however, were in the depth of the darts. When the darts were sewn, those differences disappear. To further defend their assertion, Palmer and Alto show the bodices sewn in the same fabric, using the same size pattern on one model on the same day (p. 21). The fit is more similar than different.

So, why do I remain so committed to Burda? The difference must be in the design ease. According to Palmer & Alto, “The need for alterations depends on the pattern design. Fitted patterns require more alterations than fuller designs” (Well, duh!) Maybe Burda’s design ease matches my body more closely than the Big Four. More likely, I’ve been playing a numbers game with myself. Burda’s European numbering system is less meaningful to me and doesn’t carry the same emotional charge. Burda’s size 38 is more random than the American size 12. (Of course, if I wore size 12, I wouldn’t have to play this numbers game with myself, now would I?) What I need to do is get over my size issues, compare my measurements to an American pattern company and select the size. Then I could objectively compare Burda’s fit with the other pattern company’s fit and probably find an American size that requires the same minimal pattern adjustments as Burda. And then, the pattern pool from which I could choose would be four times larger!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Old Maid Project

Several months ago, I bought a piece of turquoise poplin to use for test pants. The plan was to completely sew a pair of pants without making any pattern adjustments, then use the finished pants to assess where adjustments were needed. I'd done the same thing with a blouse. Before I had a chance to use the poplin for test pants, I started making muslins with muslin and I was able to work out most of my fitting issues. So, I was left with a piece of turquoise poplin (a color I'm not really crazy about) without an associated pattern or coordinating fabric for a top. I call this my "Old Maid" fabric.

I've matched the Old Maid with this Burda Pattern - view C - the capris. It won't matter that I don't like the color or don't have a coordinating top because I can wear the pants when I don't plan to leave the house. Although I'm not using the fabric to workout major fitting issues, I can try out some design changes. This is a good opportunity to practice a welt pocket. My inspiration comes from Erica's fantastic welt pockets on her June 11 post "White Linen Pants". Or, I could include the pouch pocket somewhere on the leg of the capris. And, I want to try an adjustment for my "prominent abdomen". Looks like this Old Maid is going to get quite a workout! I hope the old girl is up to the challenge.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Finally Completed: BWOF Plus Spring Summer 06 402 & 406

I finally finished Burda Plus Spring Summer 2007 #402 and #406. It took so long because my role as a mother got in the way of my sewing. DD is involved with an AAU track team this summer. Last week, practices were held on Temple University's (Philadelphia) campus. I'm not comfortable with DD driving to the campus. There are traffic patterns - trolley tracks, lane changes - she isn't used to. So that left me to do the driving and the subsequent waiting. So I couldn't sew. Parenting would be so much fun if it weren't for all those darn parental responsibilities!

The collar on this blouse consists of one layer of lightweight linen; no interfacing, no upper collar and no under collar. That makes the collar a little floppy. The model in the photograph solved the problem by wearing a necklace which is what I intend to do. This outfit cries out for jewelry. It also cries out for ironing. I know I should have ironed it before photographing it, but it's linen - why bother? The recommended fabric was something "crinkled". I don't do "crinkled". Linen is as "crinkled" as I can do.

I'm very happy to have discovered that I don't need lots of major fitting adjustments with BWOF. I just need to tweak a few things. Looking at the photo objectively, I think I'll begin to make the tops an inch or two longer. Also, I will probably make adjustments for my "protruding abdomen", "thick waist" - whatever you choose to call it. Since I can make a straight size without adding width to the waist, I need to concentrate on adjustments to get the side seams straight and perpendicular to the floor. One of my books on fitting covers this adjustment. I just have to find it.

Having the right tools for the job made this outfit so much easier. The skirt hem was finished by pressing up the hem allowance, satin stitching along the fold, and trimming away the excess. The edge stitch foot I bought years ago ( and seldom used) was invaluable for this hem treatment. The little wire in the middle prevents the fabric from bunching up and channeling under the satin stitching. I don't know how I could have done this treatment without it. The appliqué scissors I bought years ago (and seldom used) were very handy for trimming away the excess hem allowance. The moral of this story is "Keep buying those sewing supplies and notions. You'll never know when you will need them."

Friday, June 8, 2007

BWOF Plus Spring Summer 06 402 & 406

My next project is from BWOF Plus Spring/Summer 2006. This style is not what I usually wear, but I decided it's time for me to take a baby step outside of my comfort zone. I'm using a lavender lightweight linen purchased from Candlelight Valley Fabrics for the skirt and the blouse. The pattern recommends a crinkled fabric, but that's a look I haven't been able to embrace. The way linen wrinkles, it will look crinkled enough after about 30 minutes!

The skirt has already been a bit of a challenge. When I buy fabric, I usually pay very little attention to suggested fabric amounts anymore. If I'm sewing a dress or two-piece dress, I buy 5 yards of fabric and most of the time that's enough. It wasn't that easy in the case of this outfit. This skirt looks simple, (two dots) but, being BWOF, it isn't as simple as it looks. It's lined and it has a zipper in the back in addition to the elastic waist. The ruffle on the bottom skirt is cut from a single layer and takes up quite a bit of fabric because it is two separate pieces - two different sizes. The overlay is very wide before pleating. I had to squeeze and move the pieces several times, (always keeping in mind I had to leave enough room between pieces to add seam allowances) in order to have enough left for the single layer pieces. And that pleated overlay has 16 little pleats! Whew! I suppose I could do gathers instead of pleats, but I'm hesitant to make style changes to a pattern the first time I sew it.

I'm okay with these challenges. I've learned not to rush my sewing projects. And, school is almost out (insert arm-pumping happy dance here) and I'll have plenty of time.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Sewing “Palate Cleanser”

About one year ago, I submitted pictures of my sewing room to Home Sewing Association’s web site. I was lucky enough to have my pictures selected for publication on the site and I received a box of sewing goodies for the honor. Included in the box was a copy of “Fabric Leftovers” by D’Arcy-Jean Milne. Since my primary focus is garment sewing, it isn’t the kind of book I would ever buy for myself. But, after completing several projects in succession, I needed a project to act as a “palate cleanser” - something easy to clear my mind before beginning the next garment project. So, I tried one of the projects contained in the book.

I chose a project using “Rug Canvas Fabric”. This fabric is made by weaving strips of leftover fabric into rug canvas and using a variety decorative stitches to secure the strips in the canvas. Rather than use leftover fabric, I used some of the coordinated fat quarters that were also included in my box of goodies. I really had no idea what it would be when I started, but it ended up being a fold-over wallet. I’m thinking of attaching some sort of cord or trim so that it can be used as a little over the shoulder purse for a pre-teen I know. It’s just big enough for a couple of dollars, a key and a cell phone.

The projects in this book are quick, easy and fun. I can make “Sweet Beads”, “Lazy Crazy Patchwork”, “Machine Wrap Cord” or “Button Blooms”. For an analytical control freak like me, these projects are a great way to allow my free, creative side to take over.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Mission Accomplished

I liked this outfit from the first time I saw it in April 2006. It is now June 2007 and I finally have it. Talk about your delayed gratification!! This is the BWOF blouse (04/2006 #126) that gave me so much trouble. PR reviews can be seen here:


My DD finally got fed up with taking pictures for my reviews and blog posts. It didn't help that she was studying for finals when I asked her to take the picture. She grudgingly agreed to take the picture, but I experimented and discovered a set up so that I don't have to ask her to take pictures anymore. So there! (Wait until the next time she wants to borrow the car.)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Alice Cooper Must Have Been a Teacher

I’m not a fan of most rock music However, I can identify with the passion and enthusiasm of Alice Cooper’s “School's Out!” I’m convinced he must have been a teacher at some point in his life. As I tore May off my desk calendar, I realized I have less than 3 weeks - 13 work days- until school is out. I still love the field of Speech-Language Pathology. I enjoy attending conferences and learning about new research and techniques. But working in a large urban school district is more challenging than most non-teachers imagine. 13 days! But more important than the 13 days left in the school year are the 18 days of freedom before summer school starts! I may have my daughter slide my meals under the door of the sewing room!

Here’s what I may (or may not - depending on my mood) do in those 18 days:
  1. I really want to make it to NYC Garment District. I’ve been talking about going for at least 2 years and I’m really going to try to make it this time. I’ve spoken to my sister who lives in Dutchess County and she’s agreed to meet me in NYC.
  2. I’ve got a pile of vintage patterns to go through and I have to investigate how to sell them on ebay.
  3. I’ve got some quick, crafty-fabric projects to work on.
  4. I need a white suit for church.
  5. I have to copy 2 barber smocks for my nephew.

Eighteen days won’t be enough! Even if I don’t complete half the goals on my list, I’ll enjoy having a stretch of days with no immediate demands on my time and the option of sewing all day if I choose to.